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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Danae by Jan Mabuse (aka Jan Gossaert)
31 Jul 2011

Die Liebe der Danae, Bard Summerstage

In the modern operatic world, respect for the oeuvre of any given composer, as well as his stylistic development and placement in operatic history, is sacrosanct.

Richard Strauss: Die Liebe der Danae

Danae: Meagan Miller; Jupiter: Carsten Wittmoser; Midas: Roger Honeywell; Xanthe: Sarah Jane McMahon; Pollux: Dennis Petersen; Merkur: Jud Perry; Semele: Aurora Sein Perry; Europa: Camille Zamora; Alcmene: Jamie Van Eyck; Leda: Rebecca Ringle. American Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director. Directed by Kevin Newbury. Set Design by Rafael Viñoly and Mimi Lien. Costumes by Jessica Jahn. Lighting by D. M. Wood.

Above: Danae by Jan Mabuse (aka Jan Gossaert)


Consequently, organizations such Bard Summerstage, which have these tenets incorporated into their mission, serve an invaluable purpose.

The opera portion of this year’s festival, saw the U.S. premier of Richard Strauss’s forgotten gem Die Liebe der Danae. At first glance, Bard’s decision to present this opera may seem a bit strange. After all, Strauss is a very well-represented late Romantic composer. Yet, on closer inspection, one realizes that Strauss, like Jean Sibelius, who co-shares the spotlight of this festival, fell out of favor with the 20th century public, who viewed his unabashed tonality as antique. To be sure, there are moments in Strauss’s music that are atonal, but as far as operas go, people were more interested in the shock value of Salome than in the lyricism of Die Liebe der Danae.

Despite occasional blemishes, the cast and production team managed to present the opera in such a way that made a compelling case for Strauss’s unapologetic melodies, as well as the composer’s penchant for utilizing even the most omnipresent of mythic gods.

Under the direction of Leon Botstein, the American Symphony Orchestra exhibited both the lyricism and the humor of the score. While it is wonderful to see a new side of a revered composer, it is also enjoyable to revel in what he is already known for. In this case, I would have liked to see more of a balance between the humor and lyricism in Act I, but Botstein improved in that regard as the opera progressed.

The cast was headed by Meagan Miller, who has previously won the National Council Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera. Her voice was powerful, yet also extremely lyrical. For those used to other sopranos such as Lauren Flanigan, the deep timbre of her voice may, at first, be disconcerting, but there were times throughout the performance, when during a lyrical passage, the audience was simply spellbound. As Midas, Roger Honeywell was stunning. Especially noteworthy was his Act I entrance, which put the difficulty of the role on par with Verdi’s Otello. There were times when he seemed to lose stamina, but those moments were few, and he quickly recovered. Of mention were Jud Perry, who played Mercury, and Aurora Sein Perry, Camille Zamora, Jamie Van Eyck, and Rebecca Ringle, who played Semele, Europa, Alcmene, and Leda, respectively. They brought a comic element to the opera which was much appreciated. Although the four women required time to warm up as an ensemble, they managed to create spotless psychological portrayals on the individual level, and by the end, they worked as a cohesive group.

It must be said that, as Jupiter, Carsten Wittmoser was a bit lackluster. However, he too improved by the last act. Still, it has been said that Jupiter was a complex character, on par with Der Rosenkavalier’s Maria Theresa, and Wittmoser missed many opportunities to demonstrate the complexities of this most-human king of the gods.

Overall the production was impeccable and visually compelling. The chorus sang strongly and portrayed the greedy inhabitants of Eos in a way that strengthened Kevin Newbury’s modern adaptation, which set the story in post-recession America. The physical aspects of the production were stirring. The stage pictures Newbury created demonstrated both the appeal and severity of wealth, a point so crucial to the story. Additionally, there were moments that were both comic, yet touching. Such was the case when, in Act III, Danae put her suitcases in the beat up jalopy that would her car in the decidedly unwealthy life she chose with her beloved Midas.

Bard Summerstage deserves credit for a job well done for successfully resurrecting an incredibly powerful 20th century work. Die Liebe der Danae is proof positive. While Strauss’s music may be lyrical, it is richly enduring. Tastes may change, but the humanity of Strauss’s music doesn’t.

Gregory Moomjy

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